Wooden CNC Sculpture Displays Conway’s Game Of Life

A wooden frame with 64 green LEDs running a Game of Life simulation

Conway’s Game of Life has been the object of fascination for computer hobbyists for decades. Watching the generations tick by is mesmerizing to watch, but programming the data structure and implementing the rules is also a rewarding experience, especially if you’re just getting acquainted with a new computing platform. Just as rewarding can be creating a nice piece of hardware to run the game on, as [SandwichRising] has just done: check out his beautiful wooden Game of Life implementation.

A set of PCBs implementing an 8x8 LED displayThe main part of his Game is a piece of poplar wood that was CNC routed to produce an 8×8 display adorned with neat chain-like shapes. The display consists of standard 5 mm green LEDs, but they’re not the things you see poking out the front of the wooden frame. Instead, what you’re seeing are 64 lenses made out of epoxy. [SandwichRising] first covered the holes with tape, then poured green epoxy into each one and waited for it to harden. He then took off the tape and applied a drop of UV-cured epoxy on top to create a lens.

All the LEDs are mounted on PCB strips that are hooked up to a central bus going to the main ATmega328P  microcontroller sitting on a separate piece of PCB. Whenever the system is powered on, the game is set to a random state determined by noise, after which the simulation begins. On such a small field it’s pretty common for the game to end up in a stable state or a regular oscillation, which is why the ATmega keeps track of the last few dozen states to determine if this has happened, and if so, reset the game to a random state again.

The source code, as well as .STL files for the PCBs and the frame, are available in the project’s GitHub repository. If woodworking isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other ways to make neat Game of Life displays, such as inside an alarm clock, with lots of LEDS under a coffee table, or even with a giant flip-dot display.

One thought on “Wooden CNC Sculpture Displays Conway’s Game Of Life

  1. Life is a game that set off a chain reaction in my mind, leading to studying programming theory, mathematics, video game design. Conways contributions are unique in that they inspire us to pursue knowledge formally and artistically. Rip John

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